Copper still lives

Like any traditional wireline telco operator, BT's broadband access roots are copper rich. From the traditional copper-based perspective, BT has been rolling out a mix of first-generation ADSL or ADSL2+ technology. Depending on the specific geography, customers could get up to 8 Mbps service via ADSL and between 20-24 Mbps-although the advertised top speed is usually 20 Mbps.

Tim Whitley, BTTo date, BT's ADSL footprint in the UK is close to 70 percent coverage in the UK. Although 99 percent of the UK consumers can get ADSL via BT and other competitive providers, BT's retail ADSL2+ footprint is currently about 50 percent with the hopes to get 72 percent penetration by March next year.

The next move beyond basic ADSL and ADSL2+ for BT obviously is FTTC. At each cabinet location, BT is delivering 40 Mbps downstream speed with a VDSL2-based copper connection to the customer. Of course, in provisioning VDSL2 with shorter loops, the reality is dealing with the actual upstream speeds varies due to the condition of copper.

Provided market conditions remain right, BT has set an ambitious goal of reaching about two-thirds of UK homes in 2015 for FTTC.

"Because of where we started, we have a much bigger footprint of FTTC today than FTTP so our confidence around the economics and performance is much stronger with FTTC," Whitley said. "As we learn, we'll constantly judge that and adjust, but at the moment we're looking good for a 75/25 split."

BT mixed economy strategyIn terms of performance, BT is getting 40 Mbps downstream speeds with upstream rates of 10 Mbps and later 15 Mbps. That said, Whitley said BT is evaluating other technologies, including bonding and dynamic spectrum management (DSM) that can double the amount of bandwidth delivered over copper.

Right now, BT is being conservative with advertised speeds, including 40 downstream and a variety of upstream options that currently top out at 10 Mbps with eventual plans for 15 Mbps.

While it has found good performance on FTTP, "they are further ahead with FTTC which has passed half a million homes."

Since BT's upstream capability, explains Whitley, is "almost equal to or higher than the downstream speeds people are enjoying today, we're optimistic there's going to be a bunch of new services, including peer-to-peer services, two-way video, and cloud-based SaaS services" enabled via a FTTC-based connection.

Copper still lives